Al-Mesryoon independent newspaper’s deputy editor-in-chief Abdel Rahman Mohamed was released from prison, following a decision issued by prosecution authorities last week.
Mohamed was released Sunday, nearly five days after the prosecution order, and after spending more than three months in jail, according to Al-Bedaiah website.
Mohamed was arrested in Qalyubia on the dawn of 14 November 2015, in a security raid on his house, in which his laptop was confiscated, and was accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Mesryoon’s executive editor-in-chief had denied allegations of Mohamed’s connection to any political or religious organisation, previously telling Daily News Egypt that he was a specialist in the field of political Islam, but he is not known for any political or religious activities.
According to a November statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in solidarity with the detained journalist, Mohamed had “sources in Islamic and jihadist groups, which may be the reason for his arrest”, a journalist who knows him and who asked to remain anonymous out of security concerns, told CPJ.
Mohamed led the coverage of political Islam issues at Al-Mesryoon since it was founded in 2005. He was critical of the leadership of both Al-Sisi, who took power after the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and Mohamed Morsi, who preceded him, the journalist reportedly added in comments to CPJ.
Mohamed’s arrest coincided with the arrest of journalist Sobhi Shoaib, in a separate incident, but in a similar home raid on his house in Gharbeya.
This led the Press Syndicate to speak openly for the first time about the return of “dawn visitors”, in reference to the oppressive security practices of former regimes since that of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The syndicate’s Freedoms and Rights Committee, headed by Khaled El-Balshy, had warned of the return of “fabricated charges” against journalists, such as “belonging to banned groups” or “violating the constitution or law”.
The events also followed the referral of renowned journalist Hossam Bahgat to military prosecution on charges of publishing false news, and the suspension of TV host Azza El-Henawy, who criticised President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on national TV.
Meanwhile, photojournalist Omar Abdel Maqsoud is to remain in detention, after a criminal court in Mansoura adjourned his trial to 28 May, due to the defendant’s absence, a ploy often used by the Interior Ministry under the pretext of “security reasons preventing the transfer of prisoners”.
Abdel Maqsoud and his two brothers have exceeded a year and half in jail since their arrest in April 2014. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), police forces also arrested their father while visiting his sons in Gamasa Prison, in Daqahleya.
He was released nearly a month later, EIPR continued, explaining that Abdel Maqsoud was arrested while on a reporting assignment for the Masr Al-Arabiya website, and was accused of working for Al-Jazeera. The police eventually released him after 20 days in custody.
On the dawn of 14 April, the police raided his family’s home in Daqahleya governorate, and arrested Omar and his brother Ibrahim. The following day, the home was again raided and his younger brother Anas, aged 16, was arrested as well.
According to the first annual report released by the Press Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee in February 2016, Abdel Maqsoud faces re-trial after being sentenced in absentia to life in prison for “burning a police car”. The report also claimed he is enduring torture, solitary confinement and has been denied visits.
EIPR also reported that the three brothers have been subject to ill treatment by the police. Abdel Maqsoud’s fingernails were allegedly pulled out, and was been severely beaten.
EIPR further quoted Omnia El-Elaimy, Abdel Maqsoud’s wife, as saying that his brothers were forced to “crawl naked on the ground while the police walked on their backs and urinated on them”.
As for Abdel Maqsoud, he continued to be assulted and was also denied medicine for his heart and nerve condition.